Drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise in colleges. Peer pressure, competition, and anxiety are pushing young minds towards substance abuse. For teenagers, the idea of college life is fascinating. They perceive it to be a life of freedom, endless parties, and friendly teachers. While there certainly are “party schools”, colleges and universities with regular frat and sorority parties going on all the time, and teachers even attending these, are not the norm. When faced with a reality where life at college is full of hard work, competition, and challenges, students become stressed and are often unnerved by events surrounding them.

Coping with This Challenge

Coping with the reality of the adult expectations at college can be a daunting task; especially for students who haven’t had to deal with serious challenges in their life. When the going gets tough they turn to external substances to help them cope up with their ‘new found’ life. Prescription drugs soon become the choice for many as they offer them a temporary escape from the reality around them. The fast results of drugs and alcohol in helping them escape stress is negated when these students start to realize the serious implications when their ‘coping mechanism’ takes a turn towards substance abuse.

Several studies conducted have thrown up alarming results. It is estimated that every 4 out of 5 students in the age group of 18-24 drink and 2 out of 5 among this group are binge drinkers. Next to alcohol abuse, Marijuana and prescription medicines occupy the third spot on the list. A lot of reasons and causes have been attributed to substance abuse in college life and here we shall try and unearth some of the major causes behind this phenomenon.

What Are The Top Reasons for Substance Abuse Among College Students?

  • Feeling of Anxiety – Young entrants to a college are experiencing a new phase in life where they are independent and expected to take most decisions themselves. Once the initial excitement evaporates this new found freedom and extended separation from parents and family takes a toll leading to anxiety. Here many turn to drugs and other kinds of substance abuse seeking temporary relief.
  • The Pressure To Perform – In their bid to achieve higher grades and outperform the competition, college students are increasingly using stimulant drugs such as Adderall that help them stay awake to cram for tests. This allows them to put in the extra effort that would often be considered impossible under normal circumstances. What many college students don’t realize is that continued use of drugs like Adderall can be addictive and have side effects.
  • Pressure from Peer Group – You have heard and read about this before. Right from elementary school right up to adolescence people learn most things from their peer group. While most people can resist drugs or alcohol while in high school owing to strong parental support they succumb to the pressure in college. Most students are in a phase of self-discovery in college and fall victim to increased pressure during this transitioning phase.
  • Social Demands – Many students aren’t familiar with party scenes before coming to college. At parties, students find that alcohol and drugs can help them to relax, socialize, and meet others. However, with this new found way to make friends, for some, this can open up the door to alcohol and substance abuse.
  • The Urge To Experiment – As we have mentioned already this is the phase where most students love to experiment with new things in life and drugs and alcohol are just another part of their experimentation.

The Most Abused Substances in Colleges

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has come out with the most comprehensive data on alcohol and drug abuse and offers insights into the most abused substances among college students.

  • Alcohol – Not surprisingly, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among college students. Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it isn’t ‘illegal’ to drink and possess it once the student has attained the legal age of drinking. It is also easy to acquire and less expensive compared to other substances.
  • Marijuana – Also commonly called “pot”, is the second most popular substance on the abuse list and nearly 50% of college students have experimented with it. Its adverse effects include poor brain development that can affect intelligence and decision making.
  • Adderall – A stimulant drug that is often used to gain extra alertness to complete coursework and study for long hours.
  • Ecstasy – After remaining dormant from its heydays of popularity in the 1990s, this drug is making a huge comeback in the recent years. There is a purer form in MDMA and a variation which has various impurities called ‘molly’.

Habits Turning To Addiction

As we have already mentioned, most college students turn to drugs and alcohol in a bid to experiment, socialize, enhance their academic performance or to relieve stress. However, this can lead to long-term substance abuse. This long-term abuse can be life-threatening and cases of overdose are fairly common. Over time, for some, when they no longer achieve the same experiences and feelings, they turn to harder and more dangerous substances or lethal combinations. Contrary to what some believe, there are no ‘good drugs’ with some having the potential to lead to serious addiction.

Overcoming The Menace of Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse transcends barriers of religion, gender, social class and financial background. If you or one of your loved ones has become dependent on drugs, it is time to act immediately. Timely action and proper care at rehabilitation clinics can help college students overcome the menace of drugs and alcohol. These clinics combine medicinal cure with counselling and strengthening one’s will to get rid of substance abuse. Support from friends and family is an important part of the recovery plan.
Once the inpatient rehabilitation course is over, it needs to be followed up with regular counselling and support from near and dear ones. These clinical courses have helped give new meaning to many new lives and prepare them for a better tomorrow.